07
Jun
09

Twitter-Pated: Music and Information Overload

twitter network

Information is killing me. My brain buzzes with bloat and there are nights when I can’t sleep for it. In the last few years, I’ve had more panic attacks and woken up feeling like I’m forgetting something than ever before. It’s like I can no longer keep track of all the details. The devil definitely lives there, taunting me with my insignificant cerebral capacity. Between the number of books, fiction and non-fiction, that I read, the Web sites and blogs I visit, the daily advertisements and mass media I consume, and the copious music I listen to, I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of trivia and connections. I have a crazy need to organize myself somehow, and in doing so, I can now see that I seem to crave hierarchies when surrounded by networks. And both ways of organizing information are seemingly natural for humans, especially since both types exist within our biology. However, technology and new access to information and its architecture are affecting me more than I can possibly affect them, and the activities I love are being forever changed by them, not necessarily for the better.

I’ve come to the realization that computers have re-wired my brain and altered the very way I communicate. Computers have encouraged me to be non-linear in my thought processes and not only through the infinitely hyperlinked world wide web. I may not have had a computer until my first year of university, but I did have a shoddy word processor through high school, and so since I’ve been writing essays and papers, I’ve composed my thoughts in non-linear fragments – you can always go backwards and forwards in a digital copy. My essay-writing style is such that I plug in all citations and quotations first before building the argument around them. I’ve worked without an outline for so long now that I didn’t really think about how strange it was. Until I attempt to write a prolonged linear thought with a pen on paper. I then look back at my bulleted fragments and singular lines and realize that I haven’t actually written one fluid thought or argument at all. I’ve become so accustomed to composing piecemeal on the computer – my mind darting in and out and around thoughts while multi-tasking – that I cannot form a fluid piece on paper. Not only has my writing process been affected by technology, but my consumption of music has as well.

Last summer, I wrote a post addressing this issue of listening to music in pieces via something like iTunes and shuffle functions. MP3s have made it possible for music to be a non-linear experience. Perhaps to balance this non-linear chaos, I use what could be constituted as OCD methods of organization. For my physical copies of music, I first place them on the shelves alphabetically by artist name. If the artist is a single person, I file it by the last name. Within artist, I order them by release chronology – studio albums, then live or bootleg albums, then singles. Compilations are filed under the name of the compiler; for example, any compilation released by NME goes under “n.” This anal sense of taxonomy extends to my digital collection as well; I’m still in the process of creating the database that holds all of my thousands of tracks in it. While I may not have nearly as much music as some fans, I need these systems to gain control of an otherwise spiralling-out-of-control glut of music in my life. I initially thought that it was the mass media giving me too many options and polluting my brain with “choice” regarding music; that has completely changed, yet stayed the same.

I rarely take note of music by any mass media source, yet I still feel like I’m being pummeled by the tsunami of possibilities and new artists. If anything, the choice has just escalated exponentially with the Internet access to independent labels and artists and their myriad promotional tools, including MySpace, Bebo, Facebook, and Twitter pages in addition to e-newsletters, bulletins and forums. I can’t hope to keep up. I can’t even keep track of my favourite artists. Along with this proliferation of music and access to it, the innate human need for taxonomy and labelling takes over and creates a ludicrous number of hybrid, hyper-hyphenated genres like anarchist-folk-rock, Bhangramuffin, blackened death metal and 2-step garage to cope with it (Paul Morley actually just recently made a radio series on the subject of these fragmented genres and what they actually constitute – I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these sub-subgenres grew exponentially as access to music grew). And while MP3 blogs and their aggregators have been quite helpful in terms of filtering music choices, they are becoming more and more like otakus.

Otaku is a Japanese term for people who obsessively collect information about the things they’re fans of; however, according to Speed Tribes: Days and Nights with Japan’s Next Generation, a book by Karl Taro Greenfeld, otakus can very often end up collecting information just for the sake of having and then sharing rarities in a bid for increased (sub)cultural capital. Some may not even really be real fans, but more like people who get off on being able to access information that no one else can. Many MP3 blogs wield music as informational power without any particular connection to the music being discussed or featured, and with very little discussion or commentary, period. I can’t really criticize this method of blogging because as I learned while writing my MA thesis on it, everyone’s got a different purpose for his/her MP3 blog; some are just using it as a global mixtape or broadcast with music being the primary content. But the result of all this is the fact that music has become just more information to process, transfer and file. My bigger problem with this style of MP3 blog is the fact it places the onus of persuasion on the MP3s alone; I don’t have time to download every track I see on blogs to have each of them try to convince me of their worth. I actually need a little more rhetoric in order to survive. As alarming as the idea of depending on rhetoric, the art of persuasion, is, it is necessary. As a species, humanity has come to use filters throughout time to cope with the influx of information; these rhetorical filters have come in the form of social mores, religion, educational systems, culture, government and mass media. We can’t possibly learn/know everything, so we break off into specialist fields and expertises and come to rely on the power of others’ arguments to make sense of the world and process it.

I, myself, have gotten caught up in the subcultural capital gone mad. I’ve tried to keep tabs on bands I discovered via blogs, via MySpace, via the promotional emails in my inbox, and it’s all driven me to distraction. When I was a teenager, I listened to full albums all the time on my stereo and thus learnt them as coherent pieces. Rarely do I get to spend that kind of time on one album anymore, let alone really “learn” a record. I’m too busy slogging through thousands of possible life-changing bands and what Kathleen Hall Jamieson calls “the normalization of hyperbole”; everyone is vying for attention, including musicians, which can only lead to exaggeration and disappointment, and eventually, apathy and cynicism. Because of digital technology and the advent of the MP3, music has increasingly been treated as information, as binary code to be collected and stored rather than simply enjoyed. And with it, you become expected to keep track of all of these disparate pieces, including their daily communiques via services like Twitter, in order to maintain dialogue and your own music collection.

Twitter has made a communication model from the sound bite, something that most people aren’t capable of making interesting in the first place. How much do I need to know about each artist I listen to? How many are worth being that interested in? When do you stop being interesting and end up being trivial? I can’t even bring myself to follow someone like Stephen Fry on Twitter. If Stephen Fry isn’t interesting enough to keep minute-by-minute tabs on, then who is? Are we all really that bored and strapped for finding new information that we need to get updates on strangers’ mundane details? I don’t have enough time to process the information I come into contact with on a daily basis let alone the updates on people, famous or not. I don’t want to watch people live abbreviated lives and engage with art in short, transient bursts anymore. I don’t want to keep contributing to the trivia virus – it blows the networks of my brain and makes them useless for actual thinking and literate linearity. Between back catalogues and new discoveries daily, I’m getting more music than I can effectively comprehend. I want to be able to make the leap from mere perception to consciousness more than I currently do. This may mean having to extricate myself from the superhuman race on the information superhighway, and I think I’m okay with that. I may end up not knowing as much as others or being quite as up-to-date and cool, and I may even still occasionally have the nagging feeling that I’m missing something, but perhaps I can then practice this quality over quantity method in my music listening and collecting as I try to do in my blogging. It’s for the sake of my own sanity.

As much as music is numerically encoded and is probably one of the most mathematical arts, it should not be reduced to ones and zeroes. I wouldn’t mind being waylaid by the occasional information highwayman/woman. As long as their music stands and delivers.

Useless Information – Apparat

Blogspot – Paul and the Patients

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5 Responses to “Twitter-Pated: Music and Information Overload”


  1. June 8, 2009 at 11:11 am

    this was a great post. I first started experiencing the condiution you describe when i got my first ipod. Suddenly instead of listneing to album by album i was listening to tracks, random tracks off of random albums. I think i can confirm that linearity is no longer as easy as it was when i was younger.

    Loved reading this, thanks

    p.s. Ive countered this by shuffling my new ipod by album. It still serves me some curve balls but its nice to hear a random artist for more than one track at a time.

  2. 2 Rol
    June 9, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Couldn’t agree more about Twitter. As to what you say about not listening to records in a linear fashion anymore, I find myself getting disappointed by this sometimes. Recently, in my big Huey Lewis revival, I found myself listening to tracks I haven’t listening to in 20 years, but in a completely new format. My brain clung onto the old format though – when one old track ended, I expected to hear what I knew was the next track on the album. When something else popped up instead, it wasn’t the same. I realised though that the albums I love today, I’ll probably never have that “what comes next” knowledge for them; everything’s on shuffle.

  3. 3 aria
    June 20, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    The endless possibilities out there, which are being added to every day, leave me feeling very unsettled. I feel I can’t focus on one thing in case it’s the wrong thing, and I worry that one day I’ll reallize I’ve spent 10 yrs of my life concentrating on something when it could have been something so much better.

    It’s all to do with people trying to sell us stuff – that’s my theory. We are being badgered left, right and centre by people trying to get us to buy/go for stuff: music, holidays, ‘lifestyles’, websites, electrical appliances, clothes, food etc etc. Within those categories there are also countless possibilites and styles. If you really go for music are you going for the ‘right’ music? If you are on Facebook should you really be concentrating on Twitter? Or ignoring the whole thing? Are you being as cool or as with-it as possible?

    Sometimes I long for the more straightforward times when we had more idea where we stood in the world. I don’t wish for a return of the 1950s where women cooked and cleaned and men worked all day, but there is something to be said for the security that offered.

    I take a conscious step back from it all to cope. I read a limited number of websites and blogs (yours is one of them), listen to music I enjoy while being open to new music (pop/rock at home, classical in the car), try to enjoy food and cooking because it feeds the family and it’s fun to explore, and I do some meditation to help calm my brain.

    Yesterday I took my children to a Bjorn Again concert and managed not to agonize over whether or not I should be encouraging backward-looking music – the popularity of which has been boosted by a recent mediocre movie. We had fun!!!!

    We live in a complicated, imperfect world with little peace. Accept and enjoy, that’s what I’m trying to do.

    I hope you’re well, you haven’t posted for a while. Regards, aria x

  4. April 24, 2011 at 4:10 am

    I, too, am suffering from a similar breed of neurosis. I am affronted with how much I have to read, how much I have to listen to, what I have to do not just to keep up – but to feel culturally stimulated. It becomes all the more difficult when I’ve recently discovered that I cannot concentrate when I listen to music. This has come as quite a shock to me, as I did the entirety of my studies with music in the background. Now, I have to turn the music off just to read a straightforward Wikipedia page.

    Quite simply, my attention span is badly damaged. At any one time, I have between 20 and 40 tabs open on Firefox. I go on longwinded Wiki trails. I listen to the FIRST FEW SECONDS of a song before I skip onto the next one. I feel as if I have tens of thousands of songs that I’ve never listened to (and at this point, I’m unlikely to ever enjoy) because I’m haunted by this feeling that there is something else I must do. I have difficulty writing of my “passion” for music, because it feels as if my passion has been damaged, along with my attention span.

    Anyway, I really encourage that you come back here, Larissa! I look forward to your return.


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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

Photobucket

So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

Photobucket

Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

Photobucket

Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

Photobucket

Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

Photobucket

Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

Photobucket

You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

Photobucket

I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

Photobucket

You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

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Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

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Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

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Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

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Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

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And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

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Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

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We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

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Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south

Empty

Running on

Bravado

As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different

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LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

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Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

Photobucket

You must let her go

She's not crying

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Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

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So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

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The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

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Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

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No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

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All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

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Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome


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